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Retrograde analysis of the cerebellar projections to the posteroventral part of the ventral lateral thalamic nucleus in the macaque monkey


Evrard,  HC
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Dept. Empirical Inference, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent System, Max Planck Society;

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Evrard, H. (2008). Retrograde analysis of the cerebellar projections to the posteroventral part of the ventral lateral thalamic nucleus in the macaque monkey. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 508(2), 286–314. doi:10.1002/cne.21674.

The organization of cerebellothalamic projections was investigated in macaque monkeys using injections of retrograde tracers (cholera toxin B and fluorescent dextrans) in the posteroventral part of the ventrolateral thalamic nucleus (VLpv), the main source of thalamic inputs to the primary motor cortex. Injections that filled all of VLpv labeled abundant neurons that were inhomogeneously distributed among many unlabeled cells in the deep cerebellar nuclei (DCbN). Single large pressure injections made in face-, forelimb-, or hindlimb-related portions of VLpv using physiological guidance labeled numerous neurons that were broadly dispersed within a coarse somatotopographic anteroposterior (foot to face) gradient in the dentate and interposed nuclei. Small iontophoretic injections labeled fewer neurons with the same somatotopographic gradient, but strikingly, the labeled neurons in these cases were as broadly dispersed as in cases with large injections. Simultaneous injections of multiple tracers in VLpv (one tracer per somatic region with no overlap between injections) confirmed the general somatotopography but also demonstrated clearly the overlapping distributions and the close intermingling of neurons labeled with different tracers. Significantly, very few neurons (<2) were double-labeled. This organizational pattern contrasts with the concept of a segregated “point-to-point” somatotopy and instead resembles the complex patterns that have been observed throughout the motor pathway. These data support the idea that muscle synergies are represented anatomically in the DCbN by a general somatotopography in which intermingled neurons and dispersed but selective connections provide the basis for plastic, adaptable movement coordination of different parts of the body.